Description of the undiscovered tips about Excel

Article translations Article translations
Article ID: 843504 - View products that this article applies to.
Expand all | Collapse all

On This Page

SUMMARY

This article describes some of the most powerful and useful features and functions in Microsoft Excel that remain undiscovered by users. For example, you may create a new macro to perform a calculation when an existing formula or function can perform the task. Or, you may create a new macro to perform a task when you can use an existing feature that performs the task.

INTRODUCTION

This article lists some tips about how to use Microsoft Excel.

MORE INFORMATION

Join text in multiple columns

You can concatenate or adjoin text in multiple columns by using the & operator or the CONCATENATE function--for example, if you type the following data in cells A1:C2:

Collapse this tableExpand this table
A1: FirstB1: MiddleC1: Last
A2: TomB2: EdwardC2: Smith

To put the full name, in cell D2, type one of the following formulas:
$D$2: =CONCATENATE(A2," ",B2," ",C2)
$D$2: =A1&" "&B2&" "&C2
Note A space (" ") between the cells is used to insert a space between the displayed text.

Set the print area

Since Microsoft Excel 97 for Windows, a Set Print Area toolbar button has been available on the File menu. When you click the Set Print Area toolbar button, you can set the print area to the current selection. After you add the Set Print Area toolbar button to an existing toolbar, you can click Set Print Area to easily set a print area to the currently selected range.

To add the Set Print Area toolbar button in Excel, follow these steps:
  1. On the View menu, point to Toolbars, and then click Customize.
  2. Click the Commands tab.
  3. Under Categories, click File, and then scroll down the list of commands until you see the Set Print Area toolbar button.
  4. Click Set Print Area, and then drag the command to an existing toolbar.

Exclude duplicate items in a list

If you create a list of items that contains duplicate items, and you want to derive a unique list, use the Advanced Filter command in Excel.

To do this, follow these steps:
  1. Type the following data in cells A1:A10 in a new workbook:

    Collapse this tableExpand this table
    A1: Fruits
    A2: Apple
    A3: Cherry
    A4: Pear
    A5: Cherry
    A6: Plum
    A7: Apple
    A8: Apple
    A9: Pear
    A10: Apple
  2. On the Data menu, point to Filter, and then click Advanced Filter.
  3. Under Action, click Copy to.
  4. In the List Range box, type $A$1:$A$10.
  5. Click Unique records only, type $B$1 in the Copy to box, and then click OK.

    The following unique list appears in column B:

    Collapse this tableExpand this table
    B1: Fruits
    B2: Apple
    B3: Cherry
    B4: Pear
    B5: Plum
Note that this method also works for multiple columns. You can hide rows when you use the Advanced Filter command.

Multiply text values by 1 to change text to numbers

Sometimes when you import files from other sources, numeric values may appear to be numbers but behave like text values. To resolve this problem, convert these values into numbers. One method for doing this is to multiply these text values by 1.

To convert the text values, follow these steps:
  1. Click a blank cell in the worksheet, make sure that the cell is not formatted as text, and then type 1 in the cell.
  2. With the blank cell selected, click Copy on the Edit menu.
  3. Select the range that contains the values that you want to convert to numbers.
  4. On the Edit menu, click Paste Special.
  5. Under Operation, click Multiply, and then click OK.
This method converts the text to numbers. You can tell whether you successfully converted the text values by viewing the alignment of the number. If you use the General format and the values are aligned to the right, the values are numbers and the text values are aligned to the left.

Use the Text Import Wizard to change text to numbers

To do this, follow these steps:
  1. Select the range that contains the values that you want to convert to numbers.
  2. On the Data menu, click Text to Columns.
  3. Click Next two times to go to step 3 of the wizard.
  4. In the Column Data Format GroupBox, click General, and then click Finish.
This method converts text to numbers. You can tell whether you successfully converted the text values by viewing the alignment of the number. If you use the General format and the values are aligned to the right, the values are numbers and the text values are aligned to the left.

Sort decimal numbers in an outline

Assume that you create the following outline numbers in cells A1:A6:

Collapse this tableExpand this table
A1: 1.1.0
A2: 1.10.0
A3: 1.2.0
A4: 1.20.0
A5: 1.21.1
A6: 1.3.0

After you sort the outline numbers, they appear in the same order. The outline numbers appear in the order that you typed them. However, if you want to sort the numbers between each decimal, use the Text Import Wizard. To do this, follow these steps:
  1. Select cells A1:A6.
  2. On the Data menu, click Text to Columns.
  3. In step 1 in the Text Import Wizard, click Delimited, and then click Next.
  4. In the Delimiters GroupBox, click to clear every check box except the Other check box. In the Other check box, type a period, and then click Next.
  5. In step 2, type $B$1 in the Destination box so that the original outline is not overwritten, and then click Finish.

    The numbers appear in columns B, C, and D.
  6. Select cells A1:D6.
  7. On the Data menu, click Sort.
  8. In the Sort by list, click column B.
  9. In the Then by box, click column C.
  10. In the Then by list, click column D, and then click OK.
The sorted list appears in column A.

Use a data form to add records to a list

If you are adding records to a list, use a predefined data form. To start, click a cell in the list, and then click Form on the Data menu.
Collapse this imageExpand this image
Public/EN-US/Office/Excel/843504A.gif

Enter the current date or time

If you want to quickly enter the current date in a cell, press CTRL+; and then press ENTER. To quickly enter the current time in a cell, press CTRL+: and then press ENTER.

View the arguments in a formula

While you enter a formula in a cell, press CTRL+SHIFT+A to see the arguments in a formula. If you type =RATE, and then press CTRL+SHIFT+A, you can see all the arguments for that function--for example, =RATE(nper,pmt,pv,fv,type,guess). If you want more details, type =RATE, and then press CTRL+A to display the Function Wizard.

Enter the same text or formula in a range of cells

If you want to quickly enter the same text or the same formula in a range of cells, follow these steps:
  1. Select the range of cells that you want to fill.
  2. Type the text or formula but do not press ENTER. Instead, press CTRL+ENTER.
The data appears in the range that you selected.

Link a text box to data in a cell

To do this, follow these steps:
  1. On the Drawing toolbar, click Text Box, click the worksheet, and then drag the pointer to create the text box.
  2. To make changes in the formula bar, click in the formula bar or press F2.
  3. Type the link formula--for example, type =A1, and then press ENTER.
The text that you enter in the linked cell appears in the text box--for example, A1. You can move the text box to any worksheet in the workbook that you want.

Link a picture to a cell range

You can copy a range of cells and paste the result picture on a worksheet. When you do this, you can easily see cell contents anywhere on the worksheet. You can use this method to print nonadjacent cells on one page. The picture is linked and updated with both content changes and formatting changes. To make a linked picture, follow these steps:
  1. Select the cell range.
  2. On the Edit menu, click Copy.
  3. Select the cell where you want the picture to appear.
  4. On the Edit menu, click Paste Picture Link while you hold down the SHIFT key.
The result is a snapshot that is updated as the source cells are changed or formatted.

Troubleshoot a long formula

If you create a long worksheet formula that is not returning the expected result, drag the pointer to select part of the formula in the formula bar, and then press F9. When you do this, only the selected part of the formula is evaluated.

Important If you press ENTER, that part of your formula is lost. Therefore, make sure that you press ESC instead. However, if you mistakenly press ENTER, press CTRL+Z to undo the change.

View a graphical map of a defined name

Note This section applies to Excel 97 for Windows only.

When you set the Zoom box for a worksheet to a setting that is 39 percent or less, a defined name that is made up of a cell range of two or more adjacent cells appears in a rectangle on the screen. When you click Zoom on the Standard toolbar and type a value of 40 percent or more, rectangles that identify named ranges automatically disappear. Note that this feature is not available in earlier versions of Microsoft Excel.

Fill blank cells in a column with contents from a previous cell

Assume that you type the following names in column A:
Collapse this imageExpand this image
Public/EN-US/Office/Excel/843504B.gif
To correctly sort the names, fill the names in the blank cells. To do this, follow these steps:
  1. Select cells A1:A10.
  2. On the Edit menu, click Go to.
  3. Click Special, click Blanks, and then click OK.
  4. Type =a1, and then press CTRL+ENTER.

    This step enters the names in the blank cells that you selected.
  5. Select cells A1:A10.
  6. On the Edit menu, click Copy.
  7. On the Edit menu, click Paste Special.
  8. Under the Paste group, click Values, and then click OK.
The names are filled down the cells for you.

Switch from a relative reference to an absolute reference

You can press F4 to toggle the relative and absolute cell address for a formula. When you type a formula in the formula bar, use a cell reference in relative address form--for example, use A1. After you type the reference, press F4 and the cell reference is automatically changed to an absolute cell reference--for example, $A$1. You can also continue to press F4 to display mixed absolute and relative reference forms.

For more information about cell referencing, click the Find tab in Microsoft Excel Help, type absolute and relative, and then double-click the The difference between relative and absolute references topic.

Use the OFFSET function to modify data in cells that are inserted

Assume that you are using the following data in cells A1:A7 and that you want to subtract the last row from the first row in the range:

Collapse this tableExpand this table
A1: 1
A2: 2
A3: 3
A4: 4
A5: 5
A6:
A7: =A5-A1

Assume that you want to use a formula that will always be two rows under the last cell with a blank cell between the formula and the last cell that contains data. Assume that if you insert a new row at the blank cell (row 6 in the following example), you want the formula to subtract the data that is in cell A1 from the data that is in cell A6 instead of from the data that is in cell A5.

Note that in this example, the formula =A5-A1 does not subtract the data in row A6 when you insert a row with data in A6.

To do this, use the OFFSET function. The OFFSET function returns a reference to a range that is a specified number of rows and columns from a cell or from a range of cells. In this example, use the following formula:
=OFFSET(A6,-1,0)-A1
The OFFSET formula is not fixed on the row above A6 and changes as you insert new rows.

Use the Advanced Filter command

If you create a list of data in Excel, and you want to select certain items and copy them to another sheet, use the Advanced Filter command in Excel. To use this command, point to Filter on the Data menu, click Advanced Filter, and then follow the instructions that appear on the screen. If you are not sure what information Excel is prompting you for, see Microsoft Excel Help.

Use conditional sums to total data

Assume that you create a list of data in cells A1:A10, and that you want to sum all the values that are larger than 50 and less than 200. To do this, use the following array formula:
=SUM(IF(A1:A10>=50,IF(A1:A10<=200,A1:A10,0),0))
Note Make sure that you enter the formula as an array by pressing CTRL+SHIFT+ENTER. After you do this, you see curly braces {} surrounding the formula. Do not try to enter the braces manually.

The formula uses nested IF functions for each cell in the range and adds the cell data only when both test criteria are met.

Use conditional sums to count data

Assume that you create a list of data in cells A1:A10 and that you want to count all the values that are larger than 50 and less than 200. To do this, use the following array formula:
=SUM(IF(A1:A10>=50,IF(A1:A10<=200,1,0),0))
Note Make sure that you enter the formula as an array by pressing CTRL+SHIFT+ENTER. After you do this, you see curly braces {} surrounding the formula. Do not try to enter the braces manually.

The formula uses nested IF functions for each cell in the range and adds one to the total only when both criteria tests are met.

Use the INDEX function and the MATCH function to look up data

Assume that you create the following table of information in cells A1:C5 and that this table contains age information in cells C1:C5:
Collapse this imageExpand this image
Public/EN-US/Office/Excel/843504C.gif
Assume that you want to look up the age of a person by using the person's name. To do this, use a combination of the INDEX function and the MATCH function as in the following sample formula:
=INDEX($A$1:$C$5, MATCH("Mary",$A$1:$A$5,),3)
This sample formula uses cells A1:C5 as the table and looks up Mary's age in the third column. The formula returns 22.

Drag the fill handle to create a number series

By dragging the fill handle of a cell, you can copy the contents of that cell to other cells in the same row or column. If the cell contains a number, date, or time period that Excel can project in a series, the values are incremented instead of copied. For example, if the cell contains "January," you can quickly fill in other cells in a row or column with "February," "March," and so on. You can also create a custom fill series for frequently used text entries, such as your company's sales regions.

Automatically fill data

You can double-click the fill handle of a selected cell to fill the contents of the cell down a column for the same number of rows as the adjacent column. For example, if you type data in cells A1:A20, type a formula or text in cell B1, press ENTER, and then double-click the fill handle, Excel fills the data down the column from cell B1 to cell B20.

Use the VLOOKUP function with unsorted data

In Excel 97 for Windows and later versions, the VLOOKUP function works when you use it with unsorted data. However, you must add an additional argument to the formula. The Range_Lookup argument, is assumed to be TRUE if you do not specify a value. Note that the Range_Lookup argument is the fourth argument. This behavior makes the function compatible with earlier versions of Excel.

To make the VLOOKUP function work correctly with unsorted data, change the Range_Lookup argument to FALSE. The following is a sample function that looks up the age of Stan in the data table that you created earlier in the "Use the INDEX function and the MATCH function to look up data" section:
=VLOOKUP("Stan",$A$2:$C$5,3,FALSE)

Return every third number

Assume that you create the following data table in cells A1:A12, and that you want to obtain every third number in a column and put the numbers in an adjacent column:
Collapse this imageExpand this image
Public/EN-US/Office/Excel/843504D.gif
To do this, use the ROW function with the OFFSET function--for example, use the following sample formula:
=OFFSET($A$1,ROW()*3-1,0)
This formula depends on the row of the cell where it is entered. In the formula, the ROW function returns the row number of the cell where the formula is entered. This number is multiplied by 3. The OFFSET function moves the active cell down from cell A1 the specified number of rows and returns every third number.

Round to the nearest penny

Assume that you enter the following formulas in cells A1:A3 in a worksheet:

Collapse this tableExpand this table
A1: =1.23/2
A2: =1.21/2
A3: =SUM(A1:A2)

Assume that you are working with money and that the results of the calculations are formatted for currency. The values that are returned are the following:

Collapse this tableExpand this table
A1: $0.62
A2: $0.61
A3: $1.22

As you can see, the total in cell A3 is incorrect. The problem is, even though the number format (money) rounds the displayed values, the underlying values were not rounded to the nearest penny. We can resolve this behavior by using the ROUND function. For example, change the formulas to the following:

Collapse this tableExpand this table
A1: =ROUND(1.23/2,2)
A2: =ROUND(1.21/2,2)
A3: =ROUND(SUM(A1:A2),2)

The second argument of the ROUND function tells Excel which digit to round. In this case, 2 tells Excel to round to the nearest hundredth.

Install and use Microsoft Excel Help

Microsoft Excel Help lets you search for information about a specific usage topic, browse through a list of topics, or search for specific words and phrases instead of topics. You can also use context-sensitive Help (press F1) to view information that pertains to the task.

The Help files must be installed for you to access them. If Help is not installed, run the Setup program again, and then click Add/Remove to install the files.

Do not open and save directly from a floppy disk

When you open a workbook, Excel creates temporary files in the folder where you save the file and in the folder where you opened the workbook from. These temporary files are deleted when you close the file. Also, Excel creates a copy of the file on the media when you save the file. This behavior may be problematic if you open a workbook from a floppy disk or if the floppy disk has insufficient free space to hold the file.

For these reasons, it is a good idea to copy the file to your hard disk before you work with it. After you make modifications, save the file to the hard disk, and then copy it back to the floppy disk.

Use one keystroke to create a new chart or worksheet

To quickly create a chart, select the chart data, and then press F11. To create a new worksheet, press SHIFT+F11.

Set up multiple print areas on the same worksheet

You can set up multiple print areas on the same worksheet without using a macro. To do this, use the Custom Views command and the Print Report command. Essentially, you define views of the worksheet, and then define a report with the views of your choice. For more information, see Microsoft Excel Help.

For additional information, click the following article number to view the article in the Microsoft Knowledge Base:
142529 XL: How to create multiple views and create and print a report

Properties

Article ID: 843504 - Last Review: December 19, 2006 - Revision: 1.2
APPLIES TO
  • Microsoft Excel 2000 Standard Edition
  • Microsoft Excel 2002 Standard Edition
  • Microsoft Excel 97 Standard Edition
  • Microsoft Office Excel 2003
Keywords: 
kbfunctions kbhowto kbinfo KB843504

Give Feedback

 

Contact us for more help

Contact us for more help
Connect with Answer Desk for expert help.
Get more support from smallbusiness.support.microsoft.com